Lack of sleep is a public health problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.
Almost one-quarter of adults participating in a CDC survey confessed that sleepiness keeps them from concentrating. What’s worse, nearly 5 percent of them said they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving at least once in the previous month.
Many of us just aren’t getting enough rest. Here are the National Institutes of Health’s recommendations:
- School-age children and teens — About 9.5 hours per night
- Most adults — Seven to nine hours
Fortunately, there are ways to improve your sleep. Many require little or no money.
1. Create the right atmosphere
Make your bedroom a comfortable, inviting place. Pay attention to the temperature, the aesthetics and the comfort of your bed. Set the temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and make sure the air circulation is good.
Wear nightclothes that are loose and comfortable. Change your bedding at least weekly.
2. Invest in a good mattress
Consumer Reports’ Mattress Buying Guide offers more than a dozen tips for buying the right mattress. According to the guide:
“If you dread a trip to Sears or Sleepy’s, realize that you’ve got more options than ever before — department and specialty stores are no longer the default destination. Now great mattresses at fair prices can be found at Costco and online retailers.”
3. Train your brain
Bad habits contribute to many sleep problems.
It’s hard to break old habits, and to make new ones. But once a new habit is established, it generally runs effortlessly in the background of our life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) is one way of reshaping your sleep habits. The National Sleep Foundation explains how it works. CBTI may take weeks of work and require professional help, but it likely is worth the effort.
Mindfulness meditation is another way to train your brain in your battle against insomnia. To learn more about it, check out “A Free 2-Step Solution for More Sleep.”
4. Keep the bedroom a sanctuary
Reserve your bedroom for sleep, dressing and sex. Nothing else.
The underlying idea is to associate your bedroom with restfulness and sleep, eliminating activities connected with wakefulness or stress.
5. Get up if you can’t sleep
Insomniacs shouldn’t stay in bed when they’re not sleeping. By getting out of bed, you avoid making a connection in the mind between the bed and sleeplessness.
“If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of the bed,” says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
6. Try a sleep app
Healthline reviewed sleep apps for Apple and Android devices recently.
Many of these apps feature sounds like peaceful music, white noise or nature sounds. Others involve elements of hypnosis or meditation.
7. Manage caffeine and tobacco
Coffee does a good job of keeping you awake. That’s why we love it. But it stays in your system for hours, as Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine notes:
“So avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and some pain relievers) for four to six hours before bedtime. Similarly, smokers should refrain from using tobacco products too close to bedtime.”